Friday, June 16, 2017

Baseball Vs. Cancer

A powerful fundraising force in CHCCS athletics has been building since 2015, initially through the dogged efforts of one Chapel Hill High School baseball player, Garrett Liebe, but spreading to the rest of his teammates, and now to rival East Chapel Hill High baseball. The fundraising organization is Vs. Cancer, and the amount raised from the CHHS vs. East baseball game on April 26 topped $20,000 from both programs.
Lee Land is the head baseball coach at Chapel Hill High, and he is currently atop the list of fundraisers for Vs. Cancer; his team is the number one fundraising team - in the country. “It’s unbelievable what we’ve raised,” Land said. “I’m so proud of these guys.” Three years ago the team raised $7,000 and they’ve set their goals higher each year.
The Raleigh-based national nonprofit Vs. Cancer was founded by Chase Jones, a former UNC baseball player who was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer during his freshman year in 2006. He attributes his remission of ten-plus years to community support, in addition to gains in cancer research.
Jones’ first major fundraising endeavor was BaseBald, and asking athletes to shave their heads was a notable feature. BaseBald set the groundwork for Vs. Cancer, whose motto is Empowering Athletes, Helping Kids with Cancer, and all donations raised through their website are divided equally between a local medical center and national pediatric oncology research.
Garrett Liebe was in fifth grade when he played in support of an earlier Jones fundraising organization. When he was a freshman at CHHS, Garrett first volunteered with Vs. Cancer, which set the collaboration between his team and the nonprofit in motion.
The baseball players at CHHS and East shaved their heads before the rivalry match-up, even though it was the week of prom. The game was played at CHHS, and Coach Land conjectured that fundraising totals rose in part because it was the Rivalry Game. The Tigers prevailed 2-1, which now makes them 3-0 in Vs. Cancer games.
Coach Land plans to play Vs. Cancer games against East every year, and he anticipates that the fervor of the existing rivalry will only intensify. Although CHHS had a two year head start building their fundraising momentum, Land predicts his crosstown rivals will up the ante in future contests.  “They’ll be coming after us next year, and that’ll motivate us that much more.”
Although original organizer Garrett Liebe will be playing baseball at the University of the South next year, his younger brother Colin Liebe, also a baseball player at CHHS, will take up the Vs. Cancer mantle.
In a 2015 interview Chase Jones said, “Athletes are often the most visible people in a community. Whether they’re a hometown hero or a professional baseball player, people will rally around them,” he says. “They can use that platform to help kids beat cancer.”